May 28, 2004

Taiwan: Taiwan reveals details of 'middle line' in Taiwan Strait

Taiwan Defense Minister Li Chieh yesterday disclosed, for the first time ever, the coordinates of the middle line of the Taiwan Strait both the island and the mainland have been observing to prevent war
Defense Minister Li Chieh yesterday disclosed for the first time ever the coordinates of the middle line of the Taiwan Strait that the air forces from both the island and the mainland have been observing to prevent war.
The new minister revealed the figures to dismiss recent press reports about military planes from both sides crossing the sensitive line in acts of provocation since President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration Thursday.

The line stretches from latitude 27 degrees north and longitude 123 degrees east to 23 degrees north and 119 degrees east, Li told the legislative defense committee.

"By disclosing the coordinates, I think the problem should be gone now," Li said of the press reports.

He said the line was drawn by the United States in 1951 for the purpose of maintaining peace in the strait.

"I don't know whether the Chinese authorities are aware of the line," said Li.

But he quickly qualified his remark. Judging from the way Chinese military planes fly, Li said, Beijing knows.

Taiwan's military has in the past frequently referred to the middle line in public without marking it.

The minister said if mainland jets crossed the line, the Taiwan air force would also send its planes beyond.

But that does not mean the mainland planes will be fired at once they have crossed the line, Li said.

"Whether the mainland jets should be destroyed depends on their intentions," said Li.

Taiwan planes will take off preparing for interception once mainland planes get near the middle line, Li said. He also assured lawmakers that it is safe for the president to fly to Taiwan-controlled islands near the mainland coast.

Taiwan's jet fighters, armed with missiles that can reach the mainland, will escort the presidential plane to the middle line, staying on the eastern side of the line to protect the president, Li said.

As for civilian planes crossing the line between Taiwan and the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, Li said both sides have a tacit understanding about the routes.

He dismissed talk that the cross-strait situation is graver than ever, claiming it is instead more peaceful judging from the military deployment on the other side.

"The number of planes taking off and landing on the other side, its troop deployments, the Defense Ministry knows it all," said Li.

Source: China Post